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Samha El-Kholy

(b Cairo, 1910; d Cairo, May 3, 1991). Egyptian composer and singer. As a child he had a remarkable musical memory, and at the age of seven he joined a drama troupe to sing during intervals. In 1920 he began studies of traditional Arab music at the Arabic Music Club (now the Institute of Arabic Music), and he also studied Western music for a time at the Bergrün School in Cairo. He then embarked on a dual career as a singer-composer; possessing a fine baritone voice, he achieved great popularity, and he also won fame for his improvisations on the ‘ud (lute). His acquaintance with the poet Aḥmad Shawqī helped him socially, and his settings of Shawqī are classics of the genre. Chosen by Sayyid Darwīsh to perform in his operetta Al-barouka (or La mascotte), ‘Abd al-Wahhāb some years later completed Darwīsh's posthumous Cleopatra, though he composed no original music for the theatre. However, he played in many musical films, performing his own songs. Among the awards he received are the Order of Merit and the State Prize for the Arts....

Article

Samha El-Kholy

(b Cairo, Nov 25, 1924; d Königstein, Nov 23, 1988). Egyptian composer. His father performed classical Arab music with his own ensemble. After learning the piano and developing an interest in Western music, Gamal studied history at Cairo University (BA 1945), at the same time continuing his musical studies with Hans Hickmann and others. A government bursary enabled him to study musicology in Heidelberg with Georgiadis (1950–52) and composition at the Freiburg Hochschule with Harald Genzmer (1952–7). After graduation he returned to Egypt, where he taught at the newly founded Cairo Conservatory. In 1971 he was appointed professor of composition there, and he proceeded to establish the first composition department in the Arab world, teaching several Egyptian and Arab composers (including Daoud, Ghoneim, Salama and Al-Saedi) until his retirement in 1986. In 1987 he left for the University of South Florida, in Tampa, Florida, where he lived and taught until his death during a visit to Germany....

Article

John Curry

(bNew York, Jan 30, 1927; dNew York, Oct 2, 1993). Double bass and ‘ūd player. His early influences included the music played and sung by his father, who was Sudanese, and the Middle Eastern and East European music he heard growing up in Brooklyn’s multiracial community. He began learning violin at the age of seven and later studied double bass, piano, and tuba and attended the High School of the Performing Arts in New York. At this time he played Greek, Syrian, and Gypsy music professionally at weddings and other occasions. After playing double bass with Art Blakey (1945–8), Don Byas (1946), Sam “the Man” Taylor (1954), and Randy Weston (1954–7) he worked with Thelonious Monk (1957–8), with whom he recorded in performance at the Five Spot in New York and appeared on television in the CBS series “The Seven Lively Arts,” as well as on “The Sound of Jazz” (both ...

Article

Abeti  

Gary Stewart

[Masikini, Abeti ]

(b Stanleyville [Kisangani], Belgian Congo [Democratic Republic of the Congo], Nov 9, 1951; d Paris, Sept 29, 1994). Congolese singer and songwriter. Abeti first reached prominence in West Africa in the early 1970s under the tutelage of Togolese impresario Gérard Akueson who later became her husband. On the strength of her West African following, Abeti performed at the Paris Olympia concert hall in 1973 and made her first recording shortly thereafter, an album called Abeti for the record label of Pierre Cardin. Abeti returned home to Congo to widespread acclaim. Her enormous popularity opened the door for other women to enter the region's male-dominated music business.

Abeti helped to pioneer le spectacle, the ‘show style’ of performance. Her stage presentations included an array of musicians (Les Redoutables) and dancers (Tigresses), lavishly costumed and precisely choreographed. She played Carnegie Hall in 1974 and the Olympia again in ...

Article

Abiba  

Ferdinand J. de Hen

Small double-headed cylindro-conical drum of the Buda and Mangbetu peoples of the northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The head is made of antelope skin and beaten with the hand. It was used in (forbidden) mambela rites. The abiba deni is a drum of the Lengola people of the DRC....

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Abigolo  

Jeremy Montagu

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Abita  

Ferdinand J. de Hen

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Abombo  

Ferdinand J. de Hen

Bowl-shaped drum of the Angba people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is about 50 to 75 cm tall. The single antelope-skin head is laced to the body. It is beaten with one hand and one stick. The abowa mokindja of the Lengola people is similar.

G. Knosp...

Article

Val Wilmer

(Stanley )

(b Cape Town, June 26, 1947). South African drummer, percussionist, singer, and leader. Known first for his singing, he developed as a drummer by accompanying other singers in Cape Town and playing with the quartet led by the pianist Cecil May. In 1962 he joined the Coon Carnival stage show. He then spent seven years in Swaziland, where he played bop with the pianists Roy Peterson and Howard Belling and accompanied Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. In 1975 he traveled to England and worked in variety and dance bands before joining Dudu Pukwana’s group Zila. In 1981 he founded the trio District Six with Mervyn Afrika and the guitarist Russell Herman, both of whom grew up in the District Six area of Cape Town; with Abrahams as its leader, the trio expanded to a sextet (including Jim Dvorak from 1983 to 1993 and Claude Deppa at some point thereafter) and became an important focus for musicians who played both jazz and African rhythms. Abrahams also worked with Ronnie Scott, John Taylor, Johnny Dyani, and the Brotherhood of Breath. In ...

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Abu  

[bu]

Large, complex horn of the Luo people of Kenya. It is formed from a round gourd to which is affixed an elongated gourd neck joined at the top to a cow or antelope horn. It is side-blown through a hole near the tip of the animal horn. The sections are joined with beeswax, and the instrument is dampened with water before use to seal any cracks. It is played at funerals and other functions. The player introduces a song, and after the chorus enters he plays the ...

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Abume  

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K.A. Gourlay

Cylindro-conical or barrel-shaped open drum of the Akan people of Ghana. The single head is secured with cords to pegs driven diagonally into the body. The base opening is narrowed by inserting a flat circular board with a hole in the centre. The drum is beaten with two curved sticks, and is played in pairs (‘male’ and ‘female’) in the same manner as atumpan talking drums, the drummer varying the point at which his sticks strike the head in order to change the tone. The drum is used with others by warrior associations in state drumming. Its sounds are said to imitate the cry of the bird of the same name....

Article

Jeremy Montagu

End-blown conical flute of the Mombutu people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is made of antelope horn and has two fingerholes. Such flutes, with a curved or straight blowing edge and two or three fingerholes, are common all over this area of the DRC under various names....

Article

Val Wilmer

[Emanuel Nii-Moi ]

(b Jamestown, Accra, Gold Coast [now Ghana], June 7, 1931; d London, Sept 15, 1993). Ghanaian conga and bongo player. He was educated at the Royal School in Accra and began playing drums as a child. Following a brief spell in the army he traveled to Britain in 1947, settled in Yorkshire, undertook factory work, and purchased his first pair of bongos. He then moved to London and entered the entertainment business as a fire-eater, dancer, and drummer. Thereafter he became a firm fixture in modern-jazz groups, playing with Ronnie Scott, Phil Seamen, Sammy Walker, and the trombonist Ken Wray, and following other African percussionists into Kenny Graham’s Afro-Cubists. In 1955 he joined Cab Kaye. Having changed permanently from bongos to conga drums, he played with Shake Keane and Tubby Hayes. For more than six years his propulsive beat was a key element in the success of the singer and organist Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames. Acquaye worked with the Nightimers, led by the American soul singer Herbie Goines, and the jazz-tinged rock bands of Graham Bond and Ginger Baker, as well as with the Animals and the Rolling Stones. The first African to have a visible presence in postwar British popular music, he rejoined Fame intermittently but devoted his time increasingly to community teaching. The percussion workshops Adzido and Dade Krama enabled him to return to the pure drumming and chants of his youth....

Article

Vera H. Flaig

(b Accra, Ghana, 1931). American master drummer of the Ga ethnic group, West Africa. Born in Accra, Ghana, Yacub is the eldest living member of the revered Addy family of drummers. His father, Jacob Kpani Addy, was a powerful jinni whose medicine name was Okonfo Akoto. Yacub has explained that he and his brothers began drumming out of necessity: “One day when they [his father’s drummers] were very late, my father lost patience with them, and told his senior sons to start the drumming.” While the brothers had never played the drums before, they were familiar with the complex rhythms that accompanied their father’s medicine. When the drummers finally arrived, they were shocked by how well the brothers could play. In 1956, before Ghana’s independence, Yacub organized the first staged performances of traditional music at the Accra Community Center. By 1968 he started a professional touring group, Oboade, with some of his brothers. This group, based in London from ...

Article

Gregory F. Barz

[Adeniyi, Sunday ]

(b Oshogbo, Nigeria, 1946). Nigerian performer. ‘King’ of Jùjú music and born into a royal Yoruba family, Adé first performed as a guitarist with Moses Olaiya and his Rhythm Dandies. In 1964 he shifted from the Highlife style to jùjú, and in 1966 he formed his first jùjú group, the Green Spots. Referred to as ‘King’ by his audiences and ‘Chairman’ by his musicians, in 1974 he formed his own record label and has released over 40 albums since then. In the early 1980s Adé was promoted by Island Records as the ‘African Bob Marley’, with the release of Juju Music (1982) with his African Beats band, but he was eventually dropped by that label in 1984. His ensemble normally has up to six guitars and can include eight or more drummers, including talking drums. The lyrics of Adé's songs draw on traditional Yoruba praise-singing traditions, proverbs, as well as offering social and political commentary, and he sings with a beautifully flexible voice....

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Adewu  

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Adigidi  

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Val Wilmer

(Peter )

(b Cape Town, Oct 18, 1950). South African pianist, composer, and arranger. He grew up in the District Six area of Cape Town with the guitarist Russell Herman, studied music at the University of Cape Town, and played in various groups with Herman, including Oswietie, with which they toured South Africa and Angola. After joining Sipho Gumede in the funk-jazz group Spirits Rejoice he traveled along Africa’s west coast as far as Gabon, then in 1979 he settled in London. There he worked with Julian Bahula’s Jazz Africa and with Dudu Pukwana, and in 1981 he founded the trio (later, sextet) District Six with Herman and Brian Abrahams, the latter serving as the group’s leader. In 1984 Afrika performed in the USA as a member of Hugh Masekela’s group, and in 1986 he recorded with Pukwana. He led his own quartets and quintets and accompanied the singer Carmel, and during the same period he collaborated with Masekela, Courtney Pine, and the reed player David Jean-Baptiste and performed frequently as an unaccompanied soloist. In ...